B.C. health minister Adrian Dix granted a coverage extension for COVID-related medical costs for residents ineligible for the provincial medical services plan.
The decision came Wednesday when Dix was questioned by Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford. Coverage was set to expire on Oct. 31, 2021. Reporting by the Burnaby Beacon revealed the Ministry of Health was still doubling down on its Oct. 31 end date mere hours before Dix’s sudden reversal in question period.
“The support and the coverage has continued consistently since March 20, 2020, and it’ll continue right now through to April 20, 2022. Obviously, it’ll be reviewed again in advance of that,” Dix said.
Dix said coverage was previously extended on July 31, 2020, and April 30, 2021.
Three-month wait period a barrier to health coverage
New residents to B.C. must go through a mandatory three-month wait period before they become eligible for health coverage under MSP.
The province says the waiting period is designed to protect B.C.’s health care plans from individuals coming to B.C. to take advantage of free health care services at the public’s expense.
However, new research published in the journal BMJ Open has found the policy disproportionately harms immigrant women, exacerbates health problems and creates unnecessary barriers to accessing health care.
Shira Goldenberg, a faculty member of the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, served as principal investigator for the newly published research. Goldenberg said she welcomed news that coverage for COVID-related medical costs has been extended, but wants to see the province put an end to the three-month wait period altogether.
“It’s time for B.C. to step up and end this policy once and for all… The B.C. government showed they can eliminate this policy; they did so temporarily during the pandemic. We’d like to see them do that permanently.”
Permanent residents, as well as people with student and work visas, can find themselves waiting for health coverage. People who move from out of province must also undergo the wait period, but remain covered by their previous provincial health coverage. Undocumented residents and people who experience a change in their immigration status are also left out of MSP coverage.
Goldenberg said the policy that links health coverage to immigration status is both shocking and upsetting for new residents.
“People perceived it as a form of racism. They could not understand it, they couldn’t put together any other explanation for why they’d be excluded from our public health care system. We did interviews with 87 immigrant women and their service providers and repeatedly this point came up that it’s a stigmatizing and xenophobic policy.”
Black Press has reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment.
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